aka THE TORMENTED
aka THE SEXORCIST
(Italy - 1974; US releases 1977 and 1981)
Directed by Mario Gariazzo. Written by Ambrogio Molteni and Ted Rusoff. Cast: Stella Carnacina, Chris Avram, Lucretia Love, Ivan Rassimov, Gabriele Tinti, Luigi Pistilli, Umberto Raho, Gianrico Tondinelli, Piero Gerlini, Giuseppe Addobatti, Edoardo Toniolo, Gianni de Benedetto. (R, 85 mins)
After the phenomenal success of THE EXORCIST (1973), the imitation game was on, and nobody made more entertaining--often for all the wrong reasons--EXORCIST ripoffs than the Italians. Italy started cranking them out in 1974, though it sometimes took them a while to turn up in the US (THE ANTICHRIST, released in Italy in 1974, was retitled THE TEMPTER when it was finally shown in America in 1978). Few of the post-EXORCIST knockoffs had as many titles as L'OSSESSA, which translates to "The Obsessed." Beating Alberto De Martino's THE ANTICHRIST and Ovidio G. Assonitis' BEYOND THE DOOR to Italian theaters by two weeks in November 1974, L'OSSESSA holds the distinction of being the first Italian EXORCIST ripoff. Known in various parts of the world under the far more lurid moniker of THE SEXORCIST (it's listed on IMDb as ENTER THE DEVIL, which seems to be confused with a 1972 American horror film with the same title), the film would be acquired by the exploitation outfit 21st Century, who released it in the US throughout 1977 and into 1978 as THE TORMENTED. It was successful enough, at least in my hometown of Toledo, OH, to play for four (!) weeks at the two-screen theater in the tiny Greenwood Mall in April 1977. Someone at the Greenwood Cine thought so highly of THE TORMENTED that they brought it back for a week in July of that year! I don't think anything illustrates how times have changed quite like the idea of a tawdry, softcore Italian EXORCIST ripoff playing for a month straight at a shopping mall.
"After Hours" programming. The plot concerns virginal art history grad student Danila (Stella Carnacina) and a large wood carving of one of the two men crucified with Christ, recovered from a deconsecrated church. The wooden man comes to life in the form of Eurotrash regular Ivan Rassimov and quickly reveals himself to be Satan, ravaging Danila in a sexual frenzy. As expected, her behavior becomes increasingly bizarre and inappropriate, whether she's masturbating in front of her parents Mario (Chris Avram) and Luisa (Lucretia Love), trying to seduce her father, or beating her head against the wall and escaping a sanitarium with the entire town in pursuit. Like a certain blockbuster from 1973, psychiatrists are consulted but with no success and ultimately, the local clergy recommends an exorcism despite concern that almost no priests are trained in the ritual. Fortunately, the hermit-like Father Xeno (Luigi Pistilli) is an experienced exorcist and happens to live high in the hills of a neighboring town because of course he does.
THE LAST CIRCUS SHOW, where he somehow managed to get James Whitmore, Lee J. Cobb, and Cyril Cusack onboard. Often working under the pseudonym "Roy Garret," Gariazzo dabbled in a little of everything, whether it was 1978's unbelievably boring post-CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND alien-invasion conspiracy thriller EYES BEHIND THE STARS, featuring Academy Award winner Martin Balsam absurdly dubbed by a British voice actor, or 1985's post-CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST jungle cannibal thriller AMAZONIA. Gariazzo rarely distinguished himself and THE EERIE MIDNIGHT HORROR SHOW is probably his best-known film by default, though his 1979 giallo/porno-crossover PLAY MOTEL has its admirers. L'OSSESSA's script was written by Ambrogio Molteni, another gun-for-hire who penned several insignificant spaghetti westerns before hopping on the BLACK EMANUELLE bandwagon in the mid '70s, and later, Bruno Mattei's skeezy 1982 women-in-prison classic VIOLENCE IN A WOMEN'S PRISON, released in the US in 1984 as CAGED WOMEN.
|Dubbing maestro Ted Rusoff (1939-2013)|
posing with the 2010 issue of Video
Watchdog with him as the cover story.
singing career that eventually took precedence over acting. She's been offscreen since 1982 and her musical output seems to have ceased in 1985 as the now-60-year-old Carnacina appears to be long retired from public life. The rest of the film's main cast is filled out by several familiar Eurotrash faces, most notably Rassimov, best known for his sinister performance in Sergio Martino's THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH (1971) and as the Jim Jones-like cult leader Jonas in Umberto Lenzi's EATEN ALIVE (1980) and Tinti, who appeared in occasional Hollywood movies like THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX (1965) and THE LEGEND OF LYLAH CLARE (1968), but was better known for co-starring in several EMANUELLE films with wife Laura Gemser.
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966). Wallach does some of his career-best acting in his scene with Pistilli, who's dubbed but the performance shines through just with the look in his eyes. Pistilli spent most of the 1980s and into the 1990s concentrating on stage work. His life came to a tragic end on April 21, 1996 when he killed himself just before he was to take the stage for the final performance of the Terence Rattigan play Tosca, which had been shredded by critics and audiences. The 66-year-old Pistilli was believed to be depressed about the negative response to the play and was also angry and remorseful over the recent end of a relationship with Italian singer Milva, leaving a suicide note that included an apology for making several disparaging remarks about her to the press following their breakup.